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The Past is Prologue

The Past is Prologue
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BY LORRAINE DUFFY MERKL

Last Saturday, I went back to the Bronx for my 40th High School Reunion.

Yes, I went willingly, not being one of those people who gets the invitation and freaks out: No I can’t go. I’m not thin enough, successful enough, wrinkle-free enough; I still can’t face the mean girls who wouldn’t let me sit at their lunch table…

I went to school with nice girls; they’re even nicer women, and although I’m already caught up with many of them thanks to Facebook, it’s nice to see them in the flesh, as well as the ones who I’ve yet to “friend.”

The high school get-together, however, came on the heels of two other less formal ones. On Thursday, I met up with moms of kids my now 21-year-old son, Luke, was friends with in grammar school, and the following day there was a small gathering with moms of kids my 18-year-old daughter, Meg, knew in middle school; again, a lovely group of women all.

Three straight days, though, of looking back and talking about what was, what could’ve been, what should’ve been, and what we would have done differently if only we had known better, well, I’ve had enough of ancient history.

This sounds kind of odd coming from me, since I have always been more comfortable living in the past than the present. For as long as I can remember, I could work myself up into a nice frothy foam if I thought long and hard enough about, for example, the time in second grade when Maureen O’Casey took the chocolate half of my black-and-white cookie during snack.

I’ve always remembered slights as though it were my job, believing that if I “just forget about it,” that would be the equivalent of letting people get away with whatever. Someone trying to help by advising me to “move on” would only keep me firmly planted in the offense long after the offender even had forgotten what happened, and you would never hear me singing the Frozen tune “Let it go,” let alone attempting that activity.

Walking down memory lane for three consecutive days, though, was just what I needed to finally acknowledge that none of what’s happened in life can be undone, and that I will only benefit from putting the past in the past; it’s time to remember the good times and live in the now as well as look forward to what’s ahead.

After one too many “rehashing” conversations, I realized I would rather talk about how things are now, with Meg graduating from high school and being able to go to college, something we weren’t quite sure would ever happen. In her academic early years, there were learning issues, tutors, a school for children with special needs, and things like speech therapy to top it off. That’s all behind us now, and I want to celebrate her present accomplishment that will happen in a couple of months when she gets her diploma, then concentrate on what’s to come in her college years.

My desire is to take the same pleasure in her higher education experience that I do watching Luke move through his on the way to him becoming an engineer.

I’m excited for them, and their first apartments, first jobs, maybe there will be marriage in their futures. And then there’s the eventual empty-nester life with my husband Neil.

I want to be hundred percent present for all of it, and that can’t happen if I’m occupying my mind with the fourth-grade teacher who graded Luke unfairly, the middle school administrator who didn’t put Meg in the right reading group, the mothers who expected me to treat their children like the Baby Jesus, while they treated mine like second class citizens, the numerous times when Neil forgot to do what was asked of him, and yes the dreaded black-and-white cookie incident.

And so, once again I am grateful to the women with whom I went to prom, through puberty, and all the other things that make up the awkward years. Seeing them, pushed me into another phase of my life; the one where the phrases, That was so long ago. Who remembers? Or cares? take precedence, along with, Let’s talk about what’s going on now.

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Lorraine Duffy Merkl
Lorraine Duffy Merkl is the author of the novels BACK TO WORK SHE GOES and FAT CHICK, for which a movie version is in the works.